It was March, 2010, my first visit to the emergency room was for vomiting and stomach ache… classic flu-like symptoms. The nausea got better but the abdomen pain did not. Four more visits to the E.R., three visits to my physician, an appendix removed, and all the scans you could think of over the span of three months. No, it wasn’t all in my head like someone close had inferred. There was something wrong, I knew it. At the suggestion of the nurse practitioner, I called my gastroenterologist. He was booked up for the next 6 months but ordered some blood work. I was extremely anemic and needed to get an iron infusion immediately. A colonoscopy was scheduled as well.
It was grim sitting in a recliner-like chair, getting iron pumped into me. I was surrounded by some really sick people that had cancer. It was scary and sad. All I could think about was getting out of there. A few days later, right before Memorial Day weekend, I had a colonoscopy. A tumor was found and biopsy was taken.
Tuesday, June 1 at 9:30 pm, I got a call from my doctor…I had colon cancer. I HAVE CANCER. No time for tears, no time for feeling sorry for myself. I needed to get it out and as soon as possible. I have a son to raise and more life to live. I had just turned 44, too young for this nonsense. LET THE FIGHT BEGIN! Friday, June 4, I had surgery to remove the tumor, part of my colon, 27 lymph nodes, some of my intestine, and my gall bladder.
Fast forward six weeks. First day of chemo, I found myself right back in that room…that dreadful room…with all of those sick people. I was now one of them. A woman came over to me. She looked very ill but had kind, beautiful eyes and a lovely smile. She asked if I was scared. I told her that I was…I didn’t know what to expect. What chemo would do, how I would feel, or if it would make me sick? The thing is…I didn’t get on the internet, I didn’t do any research, and I really didn’t want to know if what I had was bad or if my outcome was bleak. I decided I would put it in the hands of God and trust that everything would be okay. That woman helped me get through my first chemo as well as many others, we became close.
The problem with becoming close with other cancer patients is that you tend to lose some. In fact, you lose many. You become close, you have commonalities, and you share so many things…sometimes intimate things due to our unknown future. We share our story, our life, our sorrows, our pain, our hopes, our fears, and our dreams. It hurts. So do I not make myself so vulnerable? Do I protect myself and keep my relationships on a simple, friendly level and choose not to get too involved? I decided to get involved. My cancer room peeps were the first cancer friends and the first of many losses. That beautiful, kind woman that helped me during my first treatment was my first loss. There have been so many and it doesn’t get any easier.
My chemo regimen was twelve rounds. One day at the infusion center, wear a pump home, return the next day with a ‘booster’ of more chemo, then return the following day to have the pump removed. The following week I would rest and then chemo again. Six weeks, every other week. That didn’t work so well for me. I got very sick from the poison being pumped into me. My doctor kept lowering the dose until she felt she couldn’t lower it anymore. I had to get IV fluids daily due to dehydration. We took several breaks to give my body a time to rest and recover. I finally finished my last treatment in January, 2011.
Next steps…DO SOMETHING! Once I finished my chemo I knew I had to do something. I would never want anyone else to have to go through what I went through…especially my son. In 2012 I participated in Call On Congress with Fight Colorectal Cancer, I attended the national conference with Colon Cancer Alliance, I formed a team for the Undy 5000 5k Run/Walk and then joined their planning committee. I also joined the RATs (research advocate training) program with Fight Colorectal Cancer. This year, 2013, hasn’t slowed down. It started with Call On Congress again (this will be an annual event for me), then the AACR Annual Meeting’s Scientist>Survivor Program, the Undy 5000, and now I will be on the Cancer Survivorship Advisory Board for George Washington University.
I’m now three years NED and very busy DOING SOMETHING! Cancer is life changing and sometimes life taking. I was one of the lucky ones.